Watch for 'Pinnochio' moments during debates

At Random

As an avid political junkie, I have never cast a vote without listening/watching/reading everything I can about the candidates.

The past year provided me with plenty of opportunities as the debates between the nine-person pool for GOP nominees whittled that group down to five. And it looks like I will have many more chances to hear their views in 2012.

But as I’ve watched the back-and-forth, the journalist in me can’t help but cock an eyebrow or two at some of the claims being made. It prompted me to do my own research and share those results.

The most recent debate that took place in economically stressed South Carolina not surprisingly focused mainly on jobs and growth. But that focus didn’t always remain truthful. Here are a few of the more prominent “pants on fire” moments:

“This president has opened up no new markets for American goods around the world in his three years, even as European nations and China have opened up 44,” Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney stated.

The truth? President Barack Obama revived agreements with Columbia, Panama and South Korea in legislation that Congress approved last October. According to the U.S. International Trade Commission, the deal with South Korea alone has the potential to create 280,000 American jobs and boost exports by more than $12 million.

Newt Gingrich had his own Pinocchio moment when he described Chile’s retirement system. “First of all, it’s totally voluntary. If you want to stay in the current system, stay in it. If you are younger and you want to go and take a personal savings account, which would be a Social Security savings account, you can take it.”

Reality? Chile’s retirement system is compulsory. Chileans do not have a choice as to whether or not they contribute 10 percent of their first $33,360 in annual earnings to private pension plans. And nothing about it is like Social Security — citizens of Chile have a choice between five private funds, none of which operate publicly like our system.

“Three years into office, [Obama] doesn’t have a jobs plan,” Romney stated unequivocally.

The facts? Just because Romney may not like them, doesn’t mean Obama hasn’t offered jobs bills. The stimulus of 2009 was intended to create jobs. Obama’s move to cut the payroll tax was also intended to spur growth in spending, which was hoped to increase demand, which creates jobs. His latest proposal would give tax breaks to companies who hire the long-term unemployed and returning military veterans who have experienced much higher rates of unemployment.

How many jobs have or will be developed under these plans is certainly up for debate. But to claim he hasn’t had a plan is disingenuous. Three years into office, Obama has had three jobs plans.

“More people have been put on food stamps by Barack Obama than any president in American history,” Gingrich stated.

While it’s true that more people rely on these subsidies than ever before, it’s a bit of a stretch to say Obama put them on the program. And blaming the current White House occupant for the relaxation of food stamp rules in 2002 and 2008 during the former administration’s tenure isn’t very honest.

I’ll continue to watch and listen in the upcoming months. But, as always, with a healthy dose of skepticism and my fingers ready to Google some of the more dubious claims.